Glasgow May 28-31st 2010 (Part Two)

Light Rain

Breakfast is included and although I’m not one for early eating, I’m not one than can resist food either. I feel a little self-conscious walking into breakfast with a kilt-like skirt, probably not the best choice for an English girl in Glasgow. I’m a little irked that the waitress assumed I did not want haggis but it’s a pleasant enough experience and demonstrates even better value for money. Scottish breakfast minus haggis apparently equals Irish breakfast, complete with potato scone. Or bread as I know it.

Light rain is projected and I find myself pulling on my in case it’s really cold, roll neck sweater. The strange this is last night I was cold coming back from the coffee shop but I knew I would be. Glaswegians were walking around like it was summer without coats. Curious.

The rain is mightily strange; there’s one drop every six seconds and it feels like walking under a shop canopy and drops fall of the end so hardly worth bothering with.

I’m too full for more coffee so a walk is called for, past Bean Scene, clocking potential coffee shops in the West End, specifically in area called Partick although of course I thought it was Patrick for first 20 minutes.

With the rain coming I settle for Big Mouth Coffee Co and finally get cracking on the book before discovering a bit more of the West End. I lunch at Off Shore by Glasgow University.  More book is written accompanied by lovely sweet potato, coconut and something soup and big chunks of brown bread. It was just what I needed both the meal and discovering this area. Glasgow is looking up and when I get back, I have a new attic room, twice the size with a decent bathroom. Although it’s another floor up, I have a bath.

I stroll the shops and grab a cinema ticket for later. After 2 weeks without a film to watch, I’m left with CopOut with Bruce Willis which is actually very funny and a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours.

I head back to pick up recharged laptop and head out for night cap and heading towards my word target at the local Bean Scene.

Cup

Sunday is a gorgeous day and I set off after a lovely bath and light breakfast to another Bean Scene in the Hillside area of the West End. Glasgow doesn’t seem to have many road signs and my map had a big subway line going over all the main road names. I didn’t even realise there was a subway until I saw an entrance this morning. Eventually I get there; it’s hidden away in a lane. Another thing that Glasgow has lots of and explains where people walking in front of me disappear into.

Pea & Mint Soup

Pea & Mint Soup & Cheese Scones

I love this neighbourhood. There is a Marks & Spencer Simply Foods and a Waitrose which I went in just for the fun of it. They have St Georges flag cakes just randomly placed in bakery. Un-sold I may add. Even though there is a Waitrose a couple of miles from my home and another 20 minutes drive away, I don’t have a car so it’s the novelty value. I saw someone carry a Waitrose bag the other day and assumed then there must be one in the city centre John Lewis. Disappointedly not but I found this when I took a wrong turn this morning. That’s pretty much how I discover most things; walking onwards even when I’m not where I thought I was going to be, what’s to lose?

That’s how I finally realised the steeple of the church like building I have been looking at from afar was indeed part of glamorous Glasgow university. Actually the rest of it composed of horrid 1970s tower blocks and more pleasant modern buildings but it is the size of a small village.

Hillhead also has a delightful place called Cup which offered afternoon tea but it’s a little early for that so I have soup; pea & mint with cheese scones. I’m able to sit upstairs which I note is quieter and thought it was as good as place as any to carry on writing so ordered a long cold drink to sip on. An hour later, it got much busier for late lunchers and it was time for me to get to the cinema for the only other film that I want to watch, the Bad Lieutenant with Nicholas Cage. Bad indeed. That’s 2 hours I’ll never get back.

I needed cheering up after that. I could have stayed in a gorgeous part of Glasgow, enjoying both the sun and the scenery whilst cracking on with the writing. I catch the last rays whilst walking back and get to the local Bean Scene again.

Sun with no rain

On the last, the warmest day I skip breakfast and have a bagel at one of the two final Bean Scenes. I just love this place and it has made my trips to Scotland all the more worthwhile. I found it strange that both wide doors at Bean Scene were open and they felt the need to put a fan on too. It’s 9 in the morning and barely 10c!!

Glasgow had emptied the ATMs on Saturday night at I had to visit three to get some cash, which it only dispensed in £20 denominations.

Still, I love this area. It reminds me of New York in that the houses are similar, with stoops and basements but then we have that in London. There’s a big social culture in NYC but the Scottish version involves drinking. Best of all, the decent coffee shops (the now famous on this blog, Bean Scene) open till late but not till midnight as they do in NYC. Just like one of my early visits to Starbucks (I know, gahhh!) in 2000 on Broadway that featured live music. This was my first solo visit to NYC so it was nice to hang out till way past 10pm and feel both safe and entertained. I was unfortunate not to experience such melodic pleasure in Bean Scenes either here in Glasgow or previously in Edinburgh.

I notice a fair few recycling points in Glasgow and it feels like there is one for glass on every corner. I‘m surprised they are not next to every regular trash bin given the amount of merry people in the streets each night. I have to say, it’s the drinking that made me slightly uncomfortable in Edinburgh and more so here.

Given the number of friendly Glaswegians I have met, heard, listened to and ready about over the years, I didn’t get the warmth I’d expected from the local people.

I imagine I will one day, but at the moment, I’m not sure when I may be back.

Cup

Edinburgh – Part 3

Sunday Brunch

I find the last coffee shop on the list, Kilimanjaro which was only a little further up from where I finished yesterday but I couldn’t see any breakfast dishes and so just have coffee and scone to keep me going. It was some while later when I looked at the menu on my table and realise I could have had Eggs Benedict, something I have had a craving for months, the last I had being on my birthday in Montreal. Afterwards I walk towards the other favourite coffee place, the Elephant Cafe when I hit upon a lovely looking Italian restaurant just before it, serving all day breakfast, including Eggs Benedict.

I would never have come across this place if I’d already eaten but I needed a long walk to get over the two, yes two cups of delicious standard white coffee and let me tell you, there was nothing standard about it. A lovely place with great service and productive writing time. I may go back.

Perfect for a second cup

By now I was full so went past the Elephant and discovered a gorgeous park with the brand new Quartermile development on the edge. I’m not sure if it’s for students although it seems a like more luxury than they need. I didn’t want to walk too far from civilisation with the morning’s three consumed coffees at the forefront of my mind but I loved the look of this neighbourhood despite the Starbucks, it also had a another cafe and the now thankfully ubiquitous mini city style Sainsbury’s.

Despite my plans, I did manage to lose my bearings in the park and instead of heading towards another undiscovered neighbourhood, West End, I came back to where I had started the day but sprinted back to the hotel, via a shopping centre I had noticed a few doors down for quicker bathroom access. These ladies had a coin operated GHD hair straightner machine; a genius idea although probably more welcome in late night establishments.

Having refreshed and dropped my unnecessary belongings at the hotel, I walked purposefully to the other end of town. What is this West End they speak of?

The shops lined the street pretty much all the way although the big stores ceased just before it became a tiny bit more residential, I’m guessing more for students as having of course bypassed Starbucks, I found an almost camouflaged, Bean Scene. I’d seen of these before in the old town near the coffee shops and loving the idea of ‘music and coffee’ and the fact that this seemed like the edge of the city, went in. It’s another great discovery; they do bagels, chai, proper big slices of cake and music with a variety of seating. This being the end of the day, there were plenty of seats and as my lemon cake and chai were being bought to me, I sunk down into a big sofa area all to myself and got the laptop out. Sadly no live music but I love this place!

Sunday night was a bit dull in that shops closed at 6, an hour later than England and this being a bank holiday; the streets were still full of drinkers. The Scottish reputation proceeded in that even when I spotted an organised Literary Walk being advertised in Robert Burns land, it turned out to be a literary pub crawl. Maybe not right for me but for any return trip, I will need to pre-organise some evening entertainment.

  • Coffee AM: full of beans
  • Coffee PM: Chai, best served with lemon cake
  • Words total: 4025

 A Taste of New York

Once again I set out for the Elephant Cafe but with nought pounds in my purse, Scottish or otherwise (I love having Scottish money, it still feels like I’m abroad) I stopped at the Bank of Scotland on Bank Street, all names that lead me into believing I was going to obtain some cash here. I swear this is true; the cash point would only give me notes divisible by £200 so not the £20 I asked for.

As I didn’t see any other cash points, for the second time this weekend I go past the intended, Elephant Cafe and towards the park and on to a cash point next to Starbucks. Money in hand, I go past the second Starbucks and Sainsbury’s into the enticing looking cafe I saw yesterday. Again my first impression was right; it’s exactly like my favourite little chain in New York, Dean & Deluca.

Peter’s Yard seems to be modelled on the Dean & Deluca look, very high ceilings, bare metal pipes elevated over head, ridiculously expensive branded souvenir goodies displayed minimally on chrome wire shelving and well trained staff. There has to be a connection.

I spot a corner table right at the back so the stools at the front weren’t necessary although almost every seat here is by a window and once again, I take my cinnamon pastry whilst my drink is freshly made and bought to me. Quite honestly I wanted to move in.  I start spotting the few residents that already occupy the buildings on the shiny new complex outside amongst all the advertising signs for homes, offices and retail spaces. When I walked past yesterday I thought it was odd that they put shiny tower blocks next to the gorgeous old gothic style buildings and didn’t make them blend in but I do surprise myself by falling for it all. Despite spotting a young woman clearly coming back from the gym on a bank holiday Monday and the Starbucks two doors down, I am not put off.

I go past my target of 5000 words for the weekend on the new love of my life, the Samsung netbook, (and a couple of thousand on this journal in between times) and decided not to move in right now but go and explore a little more, this time going straight towards the West End and then back to do some window shopping on the way to the hotel and the train home.

  • Coffee: full of beans
  • Words total: 5198

 I walk the way I should have gone yesterday and pass two Premier Inns which didn’t come up on my search for a hotel but were a welcome sight. I walk through what appears to be more of the business district with many shiny new buildings and a huge Bank of Scotland (how do they dispense the money at this cash point, in £500 increments?) but not far from the Bean Scene I was in yesterday, just as the few spots of forecast rain start so a perfect time to stop for a light lunch before heading back.

It may have been just the moment I was enjoying but quite frankly it was the most beautiful tomato and basil soup I have tasted, and tomato soup isn’t a favourite of mine.

It came hot in a large mug with spoon and deliciously hot Panini bread with butter. It was just gorgeous and a wonderful end to my trip.

 I’ll be back.

Castle in the city centre?

Edinburgh – Part 2

Saturday

Harry Potter

I only spotted one potential coffee shop so researched more whilst watching Jonathan Ross last night. By the way, this is the first hotel in many years I have stayed where there were only five channels on TV, remembering that I mostly go to America.

I found four coffee shops in 2 adjoining neighbourhoods in the old town which I though gives me the reason to explore this ancient city. What I hadn’t reckoned on is that J K Rowling author of the uber-successful Harry Potter is from these parts and lo and behold, there is a coffee shop to recognise that she frequented it, The Elephant Cafe. Just as I added that one to my list, I had a tweet from @kissmecupcakes to tell me so. This was just meant to be so is my first point of call this morning for breakfast and first writing stint – the reason for this long weekend of solitude.

I do like a window seat and this is one of those narrow establishments so there were only 2 window bar stools, of which I grabbed one whilst waiting for my sausage (in a) roll. The view of the castle they speak of Ms Rowling enjoying must have been at the back somewhere but I wasn’t going to risk losing my window seat to find out. Plus I am not writing about mystical worlds so don’t need the castle as inspiration.

  • Coffee: full of beans
  • Words total:1483

Elephant Cafe

Chocolate Soup

I took a break in the National Gallery of Scotland and noted their Cupcake bakery before heading to no: 2 in the coffee shop list, Chocolate Soup, for lunch. My hunch was right and I enjoyed a little writing with some potato and leek soup with tomato bread before moving onto no: 3. I had a window seat but I didn’t feel too comfortable writing with a laptop actually on my lap plus I was hogging a table made for four and now really fancied a decent coffee, something I imagined the chocolate connoisseur wasn’t going to be as good at so I quickly moved onto the Medicine Coffee Company and the first disappointment of the day.

I didn’t plan on visiting three of the coffee shops in one day but it gave me a chance to see which I wanted to return to. I found it easily enough and even though there was no-one in front of me and three members of ‘busy’ staff, it took a few minutes for me to be served. Then I was told I couldn’t have my coffee in a takeout cup, inside, – a first for me and I visit a lot, I mean a lot of coffee shops. Even though I offered to pay whatever the extra charge is to ‘eat in’, it was the owners policy. So it’s the owner’s policy to a) make me drink my coffee quickly before it gets cold and order more or vacate my chair b) make me have cold coffee at my leisure.

Tartan

This should have been quaint and old worldly, as the name suggests but was uncomfortable as I find cold coffee and productive writing are not a match. I got a cute but rough window nook and as sitting on a tree trunk is never easy for a long time, a decent hot coffee would have made it infinitely better. There is no customer care here but they did warm up the milk for me. Still half way through the measly little cup, its cold.

I wonder back via a little look at Edinburgh Castle, or more importantly, a little retail discovery called Ness that sells all things tartan. In all the excitement of the dual first of starting my book and coming to Scotland, I forgot one my old loves, tartan. As both my kilt and tartan trousers are currently residing in New York, I should have one memento of this occasion and set about finding a kilt in another colour.

As I have done on many a trip, I swap the Friday fish and chips to Saturday and pop to Harry Ramsden’s for an accompaniment to Dr Who. Later I do watch Match of The Day despite the big end of season games being played tomorrow.

  • Coffee: instant
  • Words total: 2389